How to handle back to school bike safety


September brings back a sudden rush of cyclists along Kitsilano’s bikeways. Mostly made up of kids and families riding to schools, and students riding to UBC, this increase from the August riders is considerable.

Along with this spike in bike traffic comes some challenges particular to Kits: more vehicle traffic around schools, blinding sun along the east-west routes (pictured right), shorter days, and of course, the occasional torrential rain.Although the back-to-school rush has dissipated somewhat, lots of these problems continue. One of the biggest problems is the sun.

At this time of year, the sun is low in the sky and between 8 and 9 am and again between 4:30 and 5:30 pm it happens to line up almost perfectly with the east-west roads. This causes no end of problems at stop signs and traffic circles, as it becomes extremely difficult to see bikes. There’s not much you can do about it either, except slow down and assume that they can’t see you.

Traffic around schools is challenging too. Cars are constantly rushing in, stopping, dropping kids off, then pulling out again. Cypress, 10th Ave, Off-Broadway, all these bikeways have schools on them. While some schools try to keep traffic under control, it’s still pretty crazy around them. Defensive riding is your best bet here too. Ride well out of reach of flung-open car doors. Watch out for kids darting out between cars. Watch the front tires of cars to see if they’re going to turn and drive out in front of you.

The shorter days and rain can be handled with gear and perseverance. I’ll look at some of the gear that can be handy as we get into the rainy season in later posts.

Last modified: October 3, 2011

One Response to " How to handle back to school bike safety "

  1. I use my bike quite a bit in the area – I find traffic circles the worst, since many drivers still don’t fully understand how traffic circles work. When drivers are tense and unsure they can get distracted and potentially cause bigger problems.

    My suggestion is this – if you’re biking in Kits the best thing you can do is slow down, if not stop, at every intersection. Too many times I’ve seen bikers blow through intersections assuming cars are going to know what they should be doing at that intersection. Compound that with the blinding light and it’s definitely better to be safe than sorry.